A new “It” plant is here, if you can keep it alive.
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The nine trailing succulents hanging in my living room are doing fine, not as well as I’d have hoped given the amount of time I spend watering, not watering, pruning and gazing at them. They were supposed to be easy plants: lovers of light, and if not impervious to neglect, then certainly not so fussy that I, a yardless and clueless city dweller, couldn’t keep them healthy.
And yet. I don’t attempt to grow succulents because they’re trendy, although they are, but because they’re the only plants I’ve been able to keep alive over multiple seasons. Is my head turned by the latest “It” plant, the purple-black lacquered stunner Geogenanthus ciliatus, known as Geo, that’s allegedly poised to grace the hottest (but not too hot — Geos prefer indirect sunlight) windowsills near me? Sure it is. But when your horticultural résumé is littered with as many fiddle-leaf fig carcasses as mine, you’ll think twice before going all in on the next big thing.
Successfully cultivating a garden of impressive plants accords bragging rights. “It’s like your kids got accepted to an Ivy League college — they’re doing well,” one plant blogger told my colleague, Katie Van Syckle.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!” a proud “It”-plant cultivator might gloat. But what does a plant collection charitably described as “alive” say about the gardener, the “plant parent”?
If any home décor scheme is worth aspiring to, then the indoor jungle, the frond-heavy and sun-bleached tableaux that proliferates on Instagram and in design magazines, has always seemed the most virtuous, the most life affirming. I try not to see my plants’ failures to thrive as proof that I’m insufficiently nurturing. The pursuit of a home garden, no matter how anemic the plants, seems generative unto itself. To be oriented toward growing, to populating space with living things, is to declare an intention for abundance, for a lush and fruitful life.
Have tips for keeping houseplants healthy? Drop me a line.
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From 2016: “How the Fiddle-Leaf Fig Became the ‘It’ Plant of the Design World.”
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Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — Melissa
Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Meet the Hot New Houseplant – The New York Times